Big Red Breakfast

Can you feel it? It’s Husker Football time! This time of the year brings out all the freaks and that’s one category I feel right at home in. With the football season comes the Big Red Breakfasts, and today at the breakfast we had the distinct pleasure of listening to and meeting Coach Callahan. Along with Callahan today was Tim Cassidy, the associate athletic director. Once you listen to Coach Callahan talk and tell stories you understand why everyone likes the man. He is a very friendly, personable speaker with a quick wit and there is no hesitation anywhere in his sentences. You can tell he is sincere with his responses because he just fires right back and doesn’t skip a beat.

The facilitator of the Breakfast (Gene), talked about both Cassidy and Callahan this morning and a couple of times he got them mixed up. In fact several times he used the term “Coach Cassidy” before he caught himself. Everyone thought it was pretty funny, and once Coach Callahan started speaking, he referred to his head coach, Tim Cassidy several times. During some of the questioning, Callahan even said he would refrain from answering that question until he could verify it with his head coach Cassidy. Like I said earlier, Callahan definitely has a quick wit!

During Callahan’s opening remarks he emphasized how excited and delighted he is to be here in Nebraska. He said that he and Cassidy were discussing how incredible Nebraska fans are and that the fan support continues to impress them. He was very pleased that the breakfasts were moved to Fridays on his request and he said that he wants to continue the Nebraska traditions. Callahan also pondered how the breakfast would look if it was in Oakland. He jokingly called it the Big Black Breakfast and poked a little fun at some of the people and players in Oakland.

BC also talked about how many letters he gets from Nebraska fans daily telling him how they feel about our football program and our traditions. He said he appreciates the letters and he can really feel the tradition here in Nebraska and that he is proud to be a part of it. BC said that he and the other coaches have remarked that if you truly love football, there simply is no better place to be then in Nebraska! He talked about Memorial Stadium and said that is “awesome” and that he has never seen anything like it before. He loves this team, and is impressed with how they have done everything he has asked them to do. He is proud of their dedication and their strong work ethic.

When BC moved on to talking a little more about the team itself he said, “Well you’re probably wondering what this little Irishman is up to…”. He was talking about the west coast offense and he said not to worry, this offense will work in all climates, even with high winds and snow! It comes down to refining details and that’s what he is diligent about doing. He said that he, the other coaches and the players will just have to prove themselves tomorrow and that they will be putting it all on the line.

Before opening up for questions, BC also talked about the woman’s 101 clinic that was held this summer. He said that there were 1050 women that participated and he described it as incredible. Next year there is also going to be a fantasy football camp for men. BC joked that he was going to put Dean (the facilitator) in charge of blocking, and he said “God help you if you miss a block!”. He said that Tim Cassidy lines up these events and that there will be many more next year.

He talked a little bit about the team captains and that there are 4 of them from different grades. BC said that they were excellent leaders and that he knows this is a change but that it was a very important change. He praised the terrific job the players are doing in the community. He discussed the importance of academics and said that he is pleased with the fact that the team has the 2nd highest GPA in Husker history and that he intends to make sure this continues.

Before Callahan let the questions start flying he prefaced the inquiries by saying that he would be happy to answer any questions about the defensive line, the defense in general and the special teams. He was jokingly trying to sway the audience from asking about Incognito, but as you will see, that didn’t happen.

• First question: What’s the biggest surprise on the offensive line?
The center position decision was a tough decision to make but it had to be done. BC didn’t mention any names but he didn’t avoid the question either. He said that he is very impressed with the way that Kurt Mann has stepped up to the challenge. He said that all the O linemen are stepping up. He mentioned the impressive leadership of Jake Andersen and his strong commitment. He discussed Mike Erickson’s hip surgery and that BC felt he was not 100% yet but that he pushes through the practices. Greg Austin had knee surgery and BC thought he would red shirt but that Austin’s rehab has been going well and that Austin plays with pain. He said that Austin has a deep passion and doesn’t let anything stop him. BC is impressed with the team continuity, is confident in the team’s future, and is excited about the way the team has both adopted and adapted.

• Will the first play be a pass or a run?
Callahan quickly responded with “Come to the game and find out”. He said that he wondered if we would applaud again if the first play was an incomplete pass (like the spring game). That comment got a good chuckle from the crowd. He said that ‘the night before a game’ routine has changed a little from before. There won’t be a movie tonight like they did in the past. After their dinner there will be a devotional, then a signal call meeting and then a unit meeting. Then BC informed us that he would expose the team to the first 15 plays of tomorrow’s game. This was quite a surprise but apparently this is the norm for Coach Callahan. He jokingly said that the word really spreads fast in Nebraska so he’s a little worried about doing this here. He said “these kids have these things called cell phones now you know!”. He then discussed the importance of giving the players the first 15 plays because it lets them ask questions and review each play ahead of the game. The players appreciate it and it allows them to focus on those first plays back in their rooms.

• How do you feel about your backup quarterback being a wrestler?
His response was something close to this, he’s a great kid and he’ll be the first one to tell you that I am nervous about it! BC then went on to say that he is a tremendous competitor and very articulate. He said that if he has to go to the backup that he will do the things that Goodman can do well. BC also jokingly stated that he hopes that it doesn’t come to that. Also he said that Beau Davis is impressive and that he has great accuracy and velocity, but that he needs to put on some weight. Jordan Adams was all torn up after his surgery but said that he came out of it very well. BC also said that the coaches were very concerned about him but they are pleased with his recovery. Adams should get to play some in the next month or so.

• How is Joe Dailey doing?
He said that Dailey is light years ahead now compared to in the spring. He just keeps getting better and BC is pleased with his progress.

• What can you tell us about Western Illinois?
They have a strong offense. Last year they averaged 36 points per game and 400 yards per game. They were ranked 12th in division IAA and their return game is outstanding. They led their division in average yards per punt return at over 15. We don’t know what to expect with the first game so we need to be alert/on guard and watch for trick plays early. Their offense is fairly simple but we don’t have much film on them. WI currently has a quarterback race between 3 outstanding quarterbacks. They are the type of IAA team that does well against division I teams. The Huskers will have to be able to adjust to WI efficiently. Notable Callahan quote: “As you know, all the great ones can adjust”

• Which coach will be upstairs?
Callahan quickly replies with “Does it matter?”. Jay Norvell will be in the booth on the headset connected directly to Callahan. We need guys up in the box so we can make adjustments. They will be looking at everything, especially numeric matchups, it is a very complex procedure. Coach Elmassian will be in the booth for the defense.

• How close is freshmen running back Brandon Jackson to seeing the field?
He had “big eyes” when he walked onto the field the first time. He is a bright smiling kid that is always happy. He needs more experience, we will use him, definitely on short yard/goal line carries. He is still learning, he’s still at the point where you can call a play that runs left and he’ll get the ball and go right.

• How good do our special teams look?
This is an area we pride ourselves on. We will put the best players in a position to make plays on special teams because it’s 1/3 of the game and can change a game rapidly. Bill Busch and all the coaches contribute to special teams

• Was it a tough decision to come to Nebraska?
This question transformed Callahan from a speaker into a stand up comedian. First he says, “I feel like that was eons ago!”. Then he goes into a routine stating that it was more of fate than a decision. He called it “Divine Intervention” and asked, why on earth would I want to leave Oakland??? Then he stood tall, raised his arms and said “I was saved brother!”, very loudly. He reminded me of Robin Williams during this question session, it was pretty funny.

• Will you continue to keep the spiritual values in Nebraska football?
This question was raised in conjunction with asking about Sunday practices. BC stated that attendance was not required until 1 PM so the players can attend their churches. The practice will be 3 hours long, and only get 20 hours per week are allowed. The practice will consist of lifting, running, a quick team meeting, reviewing film of the previous game and then watching film on the next game. TO was adamant about continuing the spiritual values at Nebraska and BC assures us that they will be a big part of his program.

• Talk about your recruiting success
Recruiting is uniquely different than it was in the NFL. The differences were so major that he has to rely on his head coach (Tim Cassidy) for assistance.
BC noted how the internet now greatly affects recruiting. He talked a little about walk-ons and how they are important, and how they connect the state with the small towns. This is a hot topic right now and that it is partly affected by the tight quarters in the locker rooms. In the old days you used to be able to hide your walk-ons but now everyone knows about everyone in recruiting. More teams are now coming into Nebraska and recruiting. Kids that might have walked on in the past are now getting picked up by other colleges on scholarships. We have given 4 scholarships out of our 19 walk-ons so far. Walk-ons are an important part and we will continue to utilize the program.

• Which true freshman have a chance to play this year?
Cortney Grixby may be returning punts and used in the nickel package.
Terrence Nunn is a great grab from Houston, may play in the Z position.
Brandon Jackson may get some time.

• Is our defense ready?
Our defense is the strength of our program.
“I told Kevin Cosgrove that they will have to carry us…….for 13 games.”
This defense is outstanding. Bernard Thomas and Jay Moore are 2 standout players that are competing. Our defense is very smart and very athletic. We couldn’t have any 2 better safeties in the country.

• Does this offensive line require a different alignment?
Callahan does speed / size profiling, always looking for bigger and better players. BC did a player study of the greatest NFL players from the last 20 years looking at measurable attributes. Discovered that long arms and big hands are very important for a great offensive lineman, they make for better pass protection. The lineman need separation and length, short arm guys are at a disadvantage.

After the questions Callahan and Cassidy stayed around and shook hands and signed some autographs. I’m usually very accurate on my first impressions and I think we have a real gem in our new head coach. If he handles his players as well as he handles the public, NU will reap the benefits of the Callahan era, in my humble opinion.

That’s all for this week. See you at the game tomorrow!!
Bring on Western Illinois!

Submitted by Husker Freak